We have a tendency to enjoy small and independent films. It’s not that we don’t like big action blockbusters with special effects budgets that rival the GDP of small nations, but films that we have to go to an “art house theatre” to see only get made when they have an actual story to deliver. The Peanut Butter Falcon is such a film.

A young man with Down syndrome, Zak (played by Zack Gottsagen) escapes the nursing home where he lives to pursue his dream to go to a professional wrestling school taught by his idol – The Salt Water Redneck (played by Thomas Haden Church). Along the way he teams up with a grifter, Tyler (played by Shia LaBeouf), and the two embark on a “road” movie along the Outer Banks of North Carolina (played by the State of Georgia). They are each pursued by those who would drag them back – notably Dakota Johnson as a volunteer at the nursing home. They bond over being men “on the run” and become friends.

There is a school of writing that remarks against the cliché of “sick kids” in movies. It asks the questions, “Does the story need a child? Does that child need to have an ailment?” It ascribes the terribleness of story to films answering “yes” when it is truly “no.”  The Peanut Butter Falcon requires Zak be Zak. They do say Zak is 22 – not really “a kid” – but his child-like approach to the world is endearing and brings heart to the other characters.

The film is not explicitly about Down syndrome, but it is important to the heart of the piece. The realistic portrayal of – frankly everything – in the film shines through. The actors’ performances are believable as though they are actually living the story presented. The film evokes many smiles and real feelings toward the characters. Everyone grows as a result of their time knowing Zak, and it feels like the audience does, too. This isn’t to say that Zak is somehow a pure force that demands sympathy and kindness from everyone he meets. He, too, changes through his adventure and not just in the “oh he learns to swim – yay” kind of way.

Overall, The Peanut Butter Falcon is a delightful, heartfelt film that deserves the attention of seeing it in the theatre – as well as the attention that full price ticket sales bring to films that aren’t franchised explosion-fests.